Paston day book
Lot 71
Sold for £42,050 (US$ 70,678) inc. premium
Lot Details
Volume of medical and household recipes, kept in several hands, the earlier ones characteristic of the late seventeenth century (up to p. 72), with the final section in a late eighteenth-century hand (this section beginning with a recipe from Lloyd's Penny Post of 1770); prefaced by an index on quartered pages with rubricated initials at the right-hand side drawn in an archaic manner, with a list of "The Characters and value of medicinall Weights"; later ownership stamps and inscription of Anna Rogers (6 April 1765), 83 numbered pages, plus unused pages (up to p. 256), ruled margins, very light dust-staining but overall in fine and attractive condition, contemporary Restoration binding of red morocco gilt with all over design of draw handle tools, stars, flowers, etc., possibly by Queen's Binder D (who worked for James II), gilt panelled spine, initials [?] RR under an earl's coronet in the third compartment, gilt edges, minor abrasion to lower cover, folio, [c.1680-1695]


  • A FINELY BOUND RECIPE BOOK BELONGING TO ROBERT PASTON, FIRST EARL OF YARMOUTH, OF OXNEAD HALL AND HIS WIFE REBECCA, the volume being identifiable by three entries, on p. 44 a recipe headed "My Mother Clayton's nourishing Broth", on p. 37 a recipe headed "My Father Sir William Pastons medicine for the gout"; and a recipe on p. 38 with the same attribution. This identifies the compiler as Rebecca Clayton, daughter of the London haberdasher Sir Jasper Clayton. On 15 June 1650 she married Robert Paston, son of Sir William Paston, who was created Earl of Yarmouth on 30 July 1679. This identification is confirmed by the earl's coronet over an entwined double-R on the spine. The Clayton-Paston alliance produced six sons and three daughters. Rebecca died on 16 February 1694.

    Paston entertained Charles II at Oxnead in 1671 and had a magnificent library – as this volume confirms – although one that was under constant threat: 'He was a devoted husband and father. He was too corpulent for field sports and suffered from persistent ill health, notably gout: walking was difficult and he was seldom free from pain. He also had chronic financial problems, stemming from his and his father's habit of spending more than they could afford, but exacerbated by his father's wartime losses and his own large family. He continued to embellish Oxnead, building a banqueting house for the royal visit in 1671. Meanwhile the estate dwindled, as he mortgaged more manors and sold off part of his collection. His letters are full of complaints about the miseries of debt and schemes for making money; his library contained many works on alchemy, astrology, and magic' (John Miller, ODNB). His son, the second Earl, died penniless in 1732, and had no heirs.

    Something of the ambience of Oxnead is reflected not just in the book's binding, but also in its contents; recipes for example including: "A fine black tincture for cabinets", "The black for Joyners worke/ as Picture frames &C:", "The Art of Marbling clouding or chamletting upon paper sett in leather calicoe", and "The fine white Vernish for Prints & pictures". The bias of the Oxneath library towards 'alchemy, astrology, and magic' is reflected by one recipe in particular, to be found on p. 46, headed: "These following Secretts were given me be Mr Carie Raleigh, being written in Sir Walter Raleigh's owne hand in a select booke for his owne use from whence I coppied them Aprill the 12. 1659" (there is also, on p. 57, "Sr Walters Raleighs great and famous Elixir or cordiall water"). This "select booke" is the one now in among the Sloane MSS in the British Library. While this volume is not unusual in containing a recipe for the 'great cordial', the immediacy of its provenance marks it out from other examples cited by Peter Beal, Index of English Literary Manuscripts, Vol. I, pt. 2, 1980, RaW 719-725, the "select booke" being RaW 711). It is pleasing to know from this intimate little scene that Carew, who died in 1666, was doing his bit to help keep alive his illustrious father's memory.

    This volume will, one can be sure, reward further investigation, not least as regards the question of handwriting. It appears, for example, that the Carew Ralegh recipe is in a different (or at least clearer) hand than the bulk of earlier entries, a supposition being that it is in the Earl's hand while others are in those of his wife; either way, this is a question easily settled by comparison with the surviving Yarmouth correspondence. Similarly, the index, with its pseudo-gothic (or alchemical) rubricated initial letters, would appear to reflect the Earl's alchemical-cum-antiquarian interests. If either is the case, Yarmouth's participation would disabuse us of the notion that such recipe books belonged exclusively in the female domain.

Saleroom notices

  • It has been confirmed that many of the recipes (some of an alchemical nature) are indeed in the hand of Robert Paston. This information has been kindly supplied by Jean Agnew, editor of "The Whirlpool of Misadventures". Letters of Robert Paston, 1st Earl of Yarmouth, 1663-1679, Norfolk Record Society, 2012.
Lot symbols
  1. Luke Batterham
    Specialist - Books, Maps, Manuscripts and Historical Photographs
    Montpelier Street
    London, SW7 1HH
    United Kingdom
    Work +44 20 7393 3828
    FaxFax: +44 20 7393 3879